A few days after talking with friends about Blue Apron and meal kits, I walked into the local Kroger and spotted a brand new display of...meal kits.
The name is clever - Prep+pared - and there is a website preppared.com. The kits range in price from $14-20, and feed two people. Expensive compared to cooking from scratch, but certainly cheaper than Blue Apron or eating out most places. I thought the packaging was attractive - very organic and recycled looking - but was mystified by the lack of pictures of the finished product.
I like to cook, but thought why not? And bought the Crispy Pork Chop with Blistered Tomatoes and Creamed Spinach (side note: Blistered Tomatoes will be the name of my band, when I start one). $16.
I unpacked the kit and I have to say if you expect these kits to be a complete meal, well...this one at least is not. It is two breaded pork chops on a bed of creamed spinach with 11 grape tomatoes. Yes, eleven - 5.5 grape tomatoes each, although this kit also promises no chopping, so I'm not sure how that .5 tomato happens. But no salad, no bread, no other starch or veggies.
I followed the directions and started by placing the pork chops between plastic wrap and - despite my skepticism - attacking them (OK, maybe that is not exactly what the instructions said, but still) with the skillet to tenderize them and get them to a 1/2 inch thickness. The first one promptly squirted out of the plastic wrap and across the counter, narrowly missing flying onto the floor. But we all recovered our composure, and I got the chops to 1/2 inch thick, mostly.
At this point, Son #2 wanders through and asks me if I am sure I only want to eat half of a pork chop - our 2-person dinner had been altered to a 3-person plan - and I was fine with that. But when they say "feeds two" they really mean it.
I mixed the bread crumbs with half the parmesan, and pressed the chops into the mixture. You will easily have half the mixture left over, there is enough to another chop or two. Once the oil was hot, I placed the chops in the skillet and set a timer to 5 minutes as instructed.
Meanwhile, in another skillet I blistered the tomatoes on medium high heat. Again, I was skeptical when the recipe told me to then reduce the heat to medium and add a tablespoon of oil. And I was RIGHT. Tomato juice from the blistered tomatoes mixed with the oil being added to the hot pan and the mad spitting, hissing and spattering was noisy enough that husband asked if everything was going OK over there. So - my advice is to remove the skillet from the heat before you add the oil. After that, I added the spinach in batches to wilt it, and then added the pouches of cream.
Meanwhile, back at the pork chops, I flipped them for another 4-5 minutes according to the instructions. Somehow, 5 minutes on each side on medium heat in 1/4 cup of oil was supposed to be sufficient to not only beautifully brown the bread crumb coating but also bring the internal temp to 145 degrees.
I think I did 5 minutes for one side and closer to 8 on the other. I got the brown, but not the temp, but hey no one is sick yet. But I have to admit, the final product was pretty close to what was shown on the recipe card.
And it was quite tasty. My dining companions gave it a 3.5 stars out of 5. It got downgraded on portion size - neither of them thought it was enough for an entire meal for two. I did make mashed potatoes as a supplement, and not just because we were stretching it for 3 people. They also thought the chops were a little tough.
This kit worked out to be $8 per person, but everything you need is there, no measuring. And I did some quick calculating - if you bought everything separately, you'd spend about $12-14 at Kroger (granted, you would have leftover ingredients to use for something else), so the pricing is certainly not outrageous.
Overall opinion - a nice option if there are just two of you, eating light, and you are tired, in a hurry, or want your non-cooking partner to take charge of dinner. Check it out.